Note: Sleepypod is our blog sponsor for 2020, and I am also receiving compensation for this blog post. That said, I only write about products I love and think would benefit my readers.
I think it’s awesome to harness and leash train a cat. It opens up a whole new world for your cat in the safest way possible. Plus it’s a great way to add another dimension to your relationship with your cat. I love going out on my leash! When my human pulls out my harness and leash, I get really excited!
It’s not that hard to get your cat harness trained. You just need some patience, and some of their very favorite treats. For this blog post, I’m using the Sleepypod Martingale Cat Harness. Sleepypod worked hard to make this harness both comfortable and safe. It’s made of a breathable mesh that’s still really strong, and has a cinching feature at the D ring to prevent escapes. It fastens at the neck and torso with super strong velcro.
Make sure to measure your cat around the neck and torso before buying your harness to make sure it fits properly.
Getting your cat to wear a harness is a process for many cats. Even though your cat may go through them quickly, don’t skip any steps, just in case they reach a snag in their training. Do this indoors. The first thing you need to do is just get your cat used to having the harness and leash around. Don’t even try to put it on them. Just let them smell the harness and leash, check them out and get used to seeing them. Reward your cat with a treat every time you present them with these items. (Note: if your cat isn’t treat motivated, use something else they love, whether it’s playing or something else.)
If your cat reacts badly to the harness at any point, go back a step or two.
Once you’re sure your cat is okay with the harness being around, try casually placing it on their back, unfastened, while offering them a treat. Make the treat the focus of this action, rather than the harness while they’re getting used to it.
Once your cat accepts the harness being draped on their back, try fastening it at one part only. Here, my human is fastening the Martingale harness at the neck. Before you even try fastening the harness, no matter what type it is, I recommend practicing with the fasteners on your own, without your cat around. That way, when it’s time to put it on your cat, you are already comfortable with the closures.
While you are fastening the one part of the harness, and after you have finished, make sure your cat gets treats. And praise. Lots of rewards are very helpful! And if your cat rebels at any point, once again, go back a step.
Only when your cat is comfortable with one section of the harness being fastened, should you try the other. And of course, this requires more treats!
The first few times your cat wears the harness, don’t attach the leash. Just have them wear it in the house for a few minutes, while giving them treats and praising them. Let them do what they want while they’re wearing it, as long as they are comfortable. If they are uncomfortable, then remove the harness and give it a try another day.
Once your cat is used to the harness being on, then attach the leash, but don’t hold it. Let the cat be in complete control of what happens. Because when you do finally pick up the leash, your cat will still be in control.
Oh yes, and make sure you have treats on hand.
Once your cat has gone through all the above steps, then it’s time to venture outside. But like I said, your cat is in control. Don’t expect your cat to walk like a dog, although some do (I’m one of those). The whole point of taking your cat outside is enrichment, and to give them something new to experience. Let your cat decide what that will be.
You job is to make sure your cat is always safe while they are exploring. Make sure they don’t get into any dangerous plants, and that you are both safely away from any critters. Stay as far away from the street as possible, in case your cat gets scared and bolts away from you.
If your cat just wants to sit and watch birds, that’s okay too. It’s your cat’s time to enjoy.
If your cat refuses to walk at all on the leash, try this. Hold out their very, very favorite treat a few feet away. Something like roast chicken, or whatever they find really appealing. Something that they can smell from a distance. Most cats will get up and walk over to the treat. Let them have it, then repeat the process. Eventually the cat will realize that walking with the harness on is not that big of a deal.
So there you have it! The definitive guide to teaching your cat how to be on a harness and leash. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.
Other posts you’ll enjoy:
- Cat Harness Modeling on Video!
- I’m a Star in Someone Else’s Movie!
- How to Rock a Harness Like a Pro (and How NOT to!)